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Step 1: Correa / Step 2: ??? / Step 3: Ohtani?

If the Giants have any shot of landing next offseason’s big fish, they’ll have to make a big splash this offseason.

Los Angeles Angels v Minnesota Twins Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

After striking out on Aaron Judge, Brandon Nimmo, and Kodai Senga, the one word that will probably be used to describe this offseason for the San Francisco Giants come March is “failure.” That is unless they make a couple of big moves as the offseason calendar flips from 2022 to 2023. Not just to improve their chances of competing for the third Wild Card in the 2023, but to improve their chances in the 2023-2024 offseason.

You know, because Shohei Ohtani figures to be a free agent in the 2023-2024 offseason.

And after striking out on Aaron Judge, Brandon Nimmo, and Kodai Senga, with Bryce Harper preceding them, and a roster that isn’t going to compete for the NL West crown for several more years, the odds of them even having a shot at landing Shohei Ohtani are — right now — less than zero.

There shouldn’t be a baseball fan alive right now who would not want Ohtani on their favorite team. He’s a unicorn. Or, better yet, an incredible baseball player. A true marvel on the mound and at the plate. Exactly the type of dynamic presence the front office desires and box office draw that the ownership word craves. He doesn’t kill x birds with one stone. He’s a bird sanctuary.

The Giants’ public reputation isn’t quite in the ditch right now, but it’s hard to argue that they haven’t been in anything more than in the range of disappointing to embarrassing to any outside observer.

With apologies to Mitch Haniger, of course.

Ohtani, by virtue of being on another team, is one of those outside observers. The Giants look like a clown car being towed by an animal balloon-driven carriage.

(Here’s an artist’s concept of what I mean:)

How do they go about fixing this? Well, making the playoffs next year certainly helps, and the front office’s scheme is so good that as we saw last year, they don’t need much in the way of physical talent to at least hang around in the race. So every incremental improvement on that base physical talent improves that win total.

But it’ll take more sizzle than incremental improvements to catch a superstar’s eye. New York and Los Angeles (talking about the actual Los Angeles and not Anaheim) have more than big media markets — they have other big hitters on their rosters to go along with a steadier track record of recent success. The Giants look like they’re still about 40% into a rebuild. And their world titles feel like they belong to another era. And that’s all in spite of a 367-341 since Ohtani entered the league.

Would signing Carlos Correa to a big fat contract help change that perception? I think so. Not only does it show players that the Giants are serious, but it sets a new floor for Ohtani.

And how about bringing back Carlos Rodón? That one’s trickier. I could envision a scenario where they sign a 28-year old to a 10+-year contract. But I can’t imagine Zaidi and the Giants going long-term on a starting pitcher. They’re still traumatized by the Cueto and Samardzija deals — 17.7 fWAR for $225 million.

But with Correa in the lineup and Rodón fronting a rotation, the Giants are much, much better than last season. Think about it this way: if Aaron Judge had signed an extension with the Yankees last offseason leaving us with the idea that the Giants’ primary goals this offseason were to sign Carlos Correa and bring back Carlos Rodón, then you would feel a lot better about their situation right now with those guys still being available.

Now, there’s a thought experiment worth employing because it’s still relevant now (he said, in no way assuming the cosmos would react). Another thought experiment: with Correa in the fold long term, wouldn’t it make it easier to package Marco Luciano and — if the Giants’ interest in still-available Christian Vazquez is true — Joey Bart to get Bryan Reynolds?

Correa, Rodón, and Reynolds along with Haniger, Vazquez, and whoever else Zaidi can sign late like he did with Joc Pederson last year and the Giants are a much better squad heading into 2023. Volume plus upside. Does that move the needle at all in terms of landing Ohtani next year?

Maybe. Maybe not. If not, the Giants would still have Correa, Rodón, and Reynolds along with Haniger, Vazquez, and whoever else Zaidi can sign late. That’s still a decent consolation instead of none of that and no Ohtani.

Are these thought experiments driven by the need to grasp at straws? Absolutely. I have no idea what’s going to happen with the Giants the rest of this offseason. I respect that the front office has their own internal valuations for players which could be motivating their bidding, but more and more, it also just seems clear that at the ownership level — where these massive contract negotiations must take place — they aren’t up to the task of actually sitting down and closing a deal. Is that because they’re aloof or because they suck? We’ll never know and it really doesn’t matter.

Rooting for a team that prides itself on being a rational actor in the marketplace means we must consider the possibility that the Giants have only a vaguely intellectual interest in pursuing Ohtani next offseason without any of the juice needed to improve the chances of it becoming a reality.

That shouldn’t stop us from holding out hope or speculating about what it would take. Otherwise, why be a fan?

For more on this topic, check out this week’s special offseason edition of the McCovey Chroncast with me and Doug Bruzzone!